Hannah Wood was still asleep early last Sunday at her home in Centennial, Colo., when the phone call came to inform her that she had been added to the field of this week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.
Her father, Don Wood, ran upstairs and awakened his daughter with the news. She was a first alternate out of the Colorado WAPL qualifying site and had earned a spot in the championship if she could get to Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club by her tee time on Monday.
Three and half hours after the phone rang, Wood and her father had packed their belongings and were in a car driving to Oklahoma. They arrived in Norman 12 hours later with some time to spare before her 1 p.m. starting time on Monday, albeit with no practice round.
"I was pretty excited because this will be my new home course," said Wood, 17, who has signed to play college golf at the University of Oklahoma in the fall of 2014. "It would have been good to have played the course before the first round, but I made the best of it."
Wood advanced from stroke-play qualifying to match play with rounds of 74-75, but lost 5 and 4 in the first round Wednesday to Aurora Kan of Avondale, Pa. Still, the senior at Arapahoe High School said her experience at her first WAPL was worth every mile and every Red Bull she and her father logged en route to the championship.
"Everybody said when you play this course, what you see is what you get," Wood said. "But that first round was a little bit scary and intimidating."
Her father tried to help ease her anxiety. He got up early Monday morning and walked the first nine holes to familiarize himself, and when it was time to play, Hannah and her father headed out for their adventure together, as they have done many times before.
With her father-caddie by her side, Hannah knew she had more than a bag-toter with her. Don Wood is a former custom club designer with the Texas company The Wood Brothers, which crafted wooden drivers for PGA Tour players in the 1970s through the mid-1990s.
Wood sold the company in 1996 and eventually became a senior designer at Cleveland Golf, where he worked from 1998-2004. He opened and closed another business four years ago. Now, Wood is a single parent rearing his daughter, hoping to help her get as much experience as possible before she ships off to Norman for four years of college golf.
Hannah Wood began playing golf at age 4, and by age 6, her father was dropping her off at a golf course near their home in Temecula, Calif., and picking her up around 6 p.m.
"I did that five days a week," said Wood, who tied for third in the Class 5-A Colorado High School Championship in May.
Since she now lives just south of Denver, Wood didn’t have spring weather that allowed her to play golf and prepare for junior tournaments. She hit balls into snow at ranges and putted indoors. Her father even created a 100-question multiple-choice test about situations in golf and gave it to his daughter to think about during the winter months.
"It helped me keep my golf I.Q. during the winter," said Wood, who holds a 3.7 grade-point average in high school.
All of her indoor winter preparation paid off. In March, Wood won the Kathy Whitworth Invitational,in Fort Worth, Texas. She signed her letter of intent to play at Oklahoma in June.
And this week, she had a memorable first trip to the WAPL with her father.
"It was worth the experience and I’ll look forward to next year," she said.
And after the fast-paced few days she spent with her dad, Wood smiled.
"It was the week after Father’s Day, so I might as well have spent it with my dad," she said.
Match play is very fickle because sometimes a golfer can shoot five under and lose or shoot five over and win. Casey Danielson, of Osceola, Wis., discovered those vagaries Wednesday. After carding rounds of 69-72 in stroke-play qualifying to finish as the No. 3 match-play seed, the incoming freshman at Stanford University struggled not only against Kuriko Tsukiyama, but also with the wind.
Playing under vastly different conditions than in her two qualifying rounds, Danielson misclubbed several times against Tsukiyama and shot the equivalent of 7-over 79, with the usual match-play concessions. Despite the high score, Danielson managed to advance into Thursday’s second round, 1 up, thanks to a winning par on No. 18. Tsukiyama had a chance to force extra holes, but her 10-foot downhill par putt caught the left edge of the hole and stayed out.
"I just wasn’t on my game," said Danielson, whose older sister, Lindsay, is serving as her caddie. "I think mostly because of the wind. It just wasn’t going my way today."
Danielson’s opponent struggled as well, something that can happen in match play. Earlier Wednesday, co-medalist Annie Park watched her opponent, Ciera Min, the final match-play qualifier, shoot three under for 14 holes in a 6-and-4 upset win.
"You just have to take it hole by hole and can’t really force anything," said Danielson, a 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur quarterfinalist. "I hope tomorrow to hit more fairways and greens and play more consistent than I did today."
There is a familiar face working as a WAPL Rules official this week at Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club. Norman resident Robert O. Smith officiated for the last pairing in Wednesday’s first round of match play. Smith worked as an LPGA Tour Rules official for 24 years and served as the head professional at the University of Oklahoma course for many years. He retired from the LPGA Tour in 2008 and has spent the last few years playing golf and focusing on shooting his age.